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  Section: Edible Plant Species
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Edible Plant Species

Asarum canadense Linn. Aristolochiaceae. SNAKEROOT. WILD GINGER.

North America.
Bartonl says the dried, pulverized root is commonly used in many parts of our country as a substitute for ginger, and Balfour says it is used as a spice in Canada.

Asclepias syriaca Linn. Asclepiadeae. MILKWEED. SILKWEED.
North America.
Kalm says the French in Canada use the tender shoots of milkweed in spring, preparing them like asparagus, and that they also make a sugar of the flowers; a very good, brown, palatable sugar. Fremont found the Sioux Indians of the upper Platte eating the young pods, boiling them with the meat of the buffalo. Jefferys, in his Natural History of Canada, says: "What they call here the cotton-tree is a plant which sprouts like asparagus to the height of about three feet and is crowned with several tufts of flowers; these are shaken early in the morning before the dew is off of them when there falls from them with the dew a kind of honey, which is reduced into sugar by boiling; the seed is contained in a pod which encloses also a very fine sort of cotton." In 1835, Gen. Dearborn of Massachusetts recommended the use of the young shoots of milkweed as asparagus, and Dewey says the young plant is thus eaten. In France the plant is grown as an ornament.

Northeastern America.
The tubers are boiled and used by the Indians. The Sioux of the upper Platte prepare from the flowers a crude sugar and also eat the young seed-pods. Some of the Indians of Canada use the tender shoots as an asparagus.

Asimina triloba Dun. Annonaceae. PAPAW.
Middle and southern United States.
All parts of the tree have a rank smell, and the fruit is relished by few except negroes. Vasey says the fruit, about four inches long, when ripe has a rich, luscious taste. "The pulp of the fruit," says Flint, "resembles egg-custard in consistence and appearance. It has the same creamy feeling in the mouth and unites the taste of eggs, cream, sugar and spice. It is a natural custard, too lucious for the relish of most people. The fruit is nutritious and a great resource to the savages."

Asparagus acerosus Roxb. Liliaceae.
East Indies and Burma.
This species was found by Mason to be a passable substitute for our garden asparagus.

A. acutifolius Linn. ASPARAGUS.
Mediterranean regions.
The young shoots are eaten in Italy, Spain, Portugal and by the Greeks in Sicily. They are thin, bitter and often stringy.

A. adscendens Roxb.
Himalayas and Afghanistan.
From this plant is made, according to Modeen Sheriff, the genuine sufed mush, called in the Deccan skakakul-hindi and used as a substitute for salep.

A. albus Linn. GARDEN-HEDGE.
Western Mediterranean region.
The young heads are cut from wild plants and brought to table in Sicily, but they form but a poor substitute for cultivated asparagus.

A. aphyllus Linn.
Mediterranean region.
The young shoots are collected and eaten in Greece.

A. laricinus Burch.
A shrubby species of South Africa.
Dr. Pappe says that it produces shoots of excellent tenderness and aromatic taste.

A. officinalis Linn. ASPARAGUS.
Europe, Caucasian regions and Siberia.
This plant, so much esteemed in its cultivated state, is a plant of the seashore and river banks of southern Europe and the Crimea. It is now naturalized in many parts of the world. In the southern parts of Russia and Poland, the waste steppes are covered with this plant. Unger says it is not found either wild or cultivated in Greece, but Daubeny says at the present time it is known under the name of asparaggia, and Booth says it is common. Probably the mythological mention of the asparagus thickets which concealed Perigyne, beloved of Theseus,- the plant, in consequence, being protected by law among the lonians inhabiting Caria-referred to another species.

Cultivated asparagus seems to have been unknown to the Greeks of the time of Theophrastus and Disocorides, and the word asparagos seems to have been used for the wild plant of another species. The Romans of the time of Cato, about 200 B. C., knew it well, and Cato's directions for culture would answer fairly well for the gardeners of today, except that he recommends starting with the seed of the wild plant, and this seems good evidence that the wild and the cultivated forms were then of the same type as they are today. Columella, in the first century, recommends transplanting the young roots from a seed-bed and devotes some space to their after-treatment. He offers choice of cultivated seed or that from the wild plant, without indicating preference. Pliny, who also wrote in the first century, says that asparagus, of all the plants of the garden, receives the most praiseworthy care and also praises the good quality of the kind that grows wild in the island of Nesida near the coast of Campania. In his praise of gardens, he says: "Nature has made the asparagus wild, so that any one may gather as found. Behold, the highly-manured asparagus may be seen at Ravenna weighing three pounds.'' Palladius, an author of the third century, rather praises the sweetness of the wild form found growing among the rocks and recommends transplanting it to such places otherwise worthless for agriculture, but he also gives full directions for garden culture with as much care as did Cato. Gesner quotes Pomponius, who lived in the second century, as saying that there are two kinds, the garden and the wild asparagus, and that the wild asparagus is the more pleasant to eat. Suetonius, about the beginning of the second century, informs us how partial the Emperor Augustus was to asparagus, and Erasmus also mentions it.

A. racemosus Willd. RACEMOSE ASPARAGUS.
East Indies, African tropics and Australia.
In India, the tubers are candied as a sweetmeat. This preparation, however, as Dutt states, has scarcely any other taste or flavor besides that of the sugar. Firminger says the preserve prepared from the blanched shoots is very agreeable.

A. sannentosus Linn.
East Indies.
The long, fleshy, whitish root is used as food by the people of Ceylon and, in the candied state, is often brought to India from China.

A. verticillatus Linn.
South Russia.
The young shoots, according to Chaubard, are eaten in the Peloponesus.

Asperula odorata Linn. Rubiaceae. WOODROOF.
Europe and the adjoining portions of Asia.
The flowers are sweetscented. The herbage is not fragrant when fresh but, after being gathered for a short time, it gives out the perfume of new hay and retains this property for years. In Germany, woodroof is used for imparting a flavor to some of the Rhine wines. In England, it is cultivated occasionally as a garden herb, being used for flavoring cooling drinks. Its seed is advertised in American garden catalogs. Woodroof will thrive in the shade of most trees and grows in all kinds of garden soil.

Asphodeline lutea Reichb. Liliaceae. ASPHODEL. JACOB'S ROD. KING'S SPEAR.
Region of the Mediterranean and the Caucasus.
This plant is mentioned as covering large tracts of land in Apulia and as being abundant in Sicily. It was fabled to grow in the Elysian fields, and hence the ancient Greeks were wont to place asphodel on the tombs of their friends. The root is mentioned as an esculent by Pythagoras. Pliny says the roots of asphodel were generally roasted under embers and then eaten with salt and oil and when mashed with figs were thought a most excellent dish. Phillips, exercising some imagination, says: "Asphodel was to the ancient Greeks and Romans what the potato now is to us, a bread plant, the value of which cannot be too highly estimated. It has long since given way to its successors in favor."

Aster tripolium Linn. Compositae. ASTER.
Northern Africa, Asia, the Orient and Europe.
The somewhat fleshy leaves of this aster are occasionally gathered to make a kind of pickle.

Astragalus aboriginorum Richards. Leguminosae. ASTRAGALUS.
Arctic North America.
The roots are eaten by the Cree and Stone Indians of the Rocky Mountains.

A. adscendens Boiss. & Haussk.
The plant affords an abundance of gum and also a manna.

A. boeticus Linn. SWEDISH COFFEE.
Mediterranean region.
In certain parts of Germany and Hungary, this plant is cultivated for its seeds, which are roasted, ground and used as a substitute for coffee. Its culture is the same as that of the common pea or tare. The name applied to the seeds, Swedish coffee, would indicate that it is siso grown in Scandinavia.

A. caryocarpus Ker-Gawl. GROUND PLUM.
Mississippi region of North America.
The unripe fruits are edible and are eaten raw or cooked.

A. christianus Linn.
Asia Minor and Syria.
In Taurus, the roots of the great, yellow milkvetch are sought as an article of food.

A. creticus Lam.
This plant yields tragacanth.

A. florulentus Boiss. & Haussk.
The plant yields a manna.

A. gummifer Labill.
This is another species supplying a source of tragacanth.

A. hamosus Linn.
Mediterranean region to India.
The plant is grown particularly on account of the singularity of its fruits which, before maturity, resemble certain worms. They are of a mediocre taste but are employed in salads chiefly to cause an innocent surprise.

A. kurdicus Boiss.
Kurdistan and Syria.
The plant affords tragacanth.

A. leioclados Boiss.
Tragacanth is produced by this plant.

A. mexicanus A. DC.
Open plains and prairies from Illinois westward and southward.
The unripe fruits are edible and are eaten raw or cooked by travelers.

Astrocaryum acaule Mart. Palmae.
This is a palm of the Rio Negro. The fruit is edible.

A. murumura Mart. MURUMURA.
A palm of the Brazilian forest.
The fruit, according to Kunth, has an agreeable flavor and at first a scent resembling musk but afterwards that of a melon. Wallace states that the fleshy covering of the fruit is rather juicy and is eatable.

A. tucuma Mart.
Upper Amazon and Rio Negro.
The fleshy part of the fruit is esteemed for food by the Indians. The yellowish, fibrous pulp is eaten by the natives.

Astronia papetaria Blume. Melastomaceae.
A tree of the Moluccas.
Its subacid leaves are cooked as a sauce for fish.

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